Are you as obsessed with knowing where you are and how to get to places when you travel? Having driven across so many countries means that we usually need to know where we are in order to get a sense of the town – especially if we can’t read the language. It makes the overall experience richer for us, the actual “travel” bit that is.
For example, I am sitting by Huay Tung Tao Lake reading The Idle Traveller by Dan Kieran and I must say that the his stories of slow travel and serendipity certainly ring true with our own experiences and satisfaction when we visit other countries. Today, rather than peruse a day of organised tours or ticking off wats on a list like many of the tourists in Chiang Mai opt for, we decided to scour our maps and find out if there were any lakes in and around the city. We were right in the middle of the country with no sea for several hundred kilometres and our small island mentality demanded that we found water dammit!
With that as our only requirement and a rough idea of where we were going, we headed off on our bike to find the lake, armed with our basic map. As a navigator, I always look for landmarks that I can use to tell if we are going the right way and had Josh and I looking for a golf course and the 7000 Year Sports stadium to know that we were going in the right direction.
Watching our journey move slowly by on the back of a bike and only having a vague idea of where we were going means that we really took in our surroundings and we were able to see the outskirts of Chiang Mai in a way that enables you to see a living, breathing, working city. It makes it seem less exotic in way, especially when driving past a Starbucks, but it’s also nice to be able to identify and know that people living so far away are just like you going to work on the morning commute, setting up shop for the day and waiting for the bus.
Jumping in a minibus or a cab means that you take the responsibility of knowing where you are away from yourself and although the may be fine for those that don’t wish to have that extra burden of thought, we love it…and we love getting lost too!
Huay Tung Tao Lake is a find and seems to be a place that is mainly visited by the Thai locals. The surrounding area is owned by the military according to a small guide I found online when trying to find this place, so you have to pay a small 20 baht fee when entering, but the lake is anything but regimented, surrounded by a small beach in places and bamboo huts to sit in and eat at as you listen to the relaxing sounds of pedalo boats squeaking slowly around the lake. We were able to buy Tilapia fish and beer off local vendors that had set up a stall for around 280 baht and top up our tans and read books. The delight was also hanging out with the locals and listening to them laugh, eat and be merry. They really love to drink whiskey in the day by the way..!
You can easily grab one of the bamboo huts during the week although you’d need to arrive early at the weekend as its a very popular location for the locals and gets very busy. You could also hire out a pedalo boat in the shape of a swan or a rubber ring to float out on the lake to relax the hours away. If you’re brave you can swim in the lake too, although I must say that I was put off seeing a snake wiggle past by my feet before I went in.
Much of the road around leads to adventure treks and quad biking tours and we saw tours dropped off in the morning and then dispatched back to the town in the afternoon – and they would never go anywhere nears the shores of the lake. With our own means of travel, we were able to stay by the lake shores as long as we liked as had no reliance on time frames and schedules and surely this is what helps you to be an “idle traveller”. Choosing where we go and when to go really has enabled us to get a sense of a place as we have the time to soak up our surroundings and then ponder the relevance to the Thai people. Being picked up, dropped off, organised on a tour and then taken back to where you stay means you miss the context of where you are. You may have a great day and I am not disputing that this method of spending time in a place like Chiang Mai is not worth it, but it would make our time here miserable. Just remember to look out the window and maybe take a map if you choose not to make your own way to the sites.
I really must pass on the secret of Huay Tung Tao Lake and advise you to visit it. It’s on many of the free maps given out to tourists but it seems to be off the agenda for many.
Thanks for reading and let us know if you have been to Huay Tung Tao Lake and what you thought of it. Are you keen on making your own way to sites and getting lost and enjoying the scenery like we are or are you all for getting some one else to take that pressure off? Let us know in the comments below!